16 Feb 2005

Cyclone Nancy hits Cook Islands, Olaf threatens Samoa

9:11 am on 16 February 2005

Cyclone Nancy is continuing on its path towards Rarotonga and Mangaia in the Cook Islands while Samoa and American Samoa are bracing themselves for the onslaught of the super cyclone, Olaf.

The Cook Islands National Emergency operations centre says there was some damage to Aitutaki, Atiu and Mitiaro overnight from Nancy.

Sergeant Teinaki Howard says around a hundred people had to be evacuated, trees were uprooted and power lines were brought down, in Atiu and Mitiaro.

"They've experienced destructive winds, one or two houses have lost their roof; basically some coconut trees have fallen down. The same as Atiu - they've also experienced destructive winds, coconut trees have fallen down on the roads, and heavy rain experienced as well."

The islands of Manuae and Mauke were also hit by very destructive winds and the Hurricane Centre on Aitutaki is now beginning an assessment of the full damage of the cyclone.

Meanwhile, schools and offices in Samoa are closed today as people brace themselves for the impact of Cyclone Olaf.

Erick Brenstrum of the New Zealand Met. office says Olaf, which is expected to hit Apia in the middle of today, is a super cyclone, so there will be phenomenal seas in some areas and highly damaging winds.

We're expecting to have very destructive hurricane force winds, which would mean wind speeds of over 215 kilometres an hour with gusts momentarily up to perhaps 260 kilometres per hour. At the same time, we're expecting there'll be very heavy seas so there is likely to be sea flooding in coastal areas and the damaging waves on top of that can be very destructive.

Our correspondent in Apia, Alan Ah Mu, says people have been told to board up their houses and stock fresh water as well as other warnings.

People close to the sea, rivers and streams have been warned to keep an eye out for flooding, to be prepared for flooding.

American Samoa is also bracing itself for the onslaught of Cyclone Olaf.

Our correspondent in Pago Pago, Monica Miller, says residents have been

taking measures to protect life and property.

Coming in to town this morning from Tafuna, all the offices, the shops, the homes, have been boarded up. I don't think residents of American Samoa have prepared this much in advance for any of the past hurricanes that we have experienced in the last several years.